It’s Not Normal to be Happy

The only definition of “normal” that I find acceptable is that throughout history, whatever the greatest number of people are doing will be considered “normal.” How we interact, how we dress, the language we use, and how we behave across all environments is measured against the (perceived) mainstream. We are conditioned and judged accordingly. Even as I type this, I notice that Microsoft Word considers the “Style” of this paragraph to be “normal.”

I serve a lot of folks who aspire to be “normal.” I cringe each and every time I hear it.

I consider normal a terribly self limiting and empty thing to be. It’s unoriginal, conventional, and yet inexplicably appealing. Folks mistakenly see it as a way of being. They seek to minimize risk through assimilation, overlooking how utterly disingenuous this is because they believe that attaining perceived normalcy leads to a better life.

I find this assumption to be terribly misguided. Is it normal to be happy? It seems far more plausible to me that what’s normal is to maintain the appearance of being happy while suffering internally and behind closed doors. It seems to me that what’s normal (prevalent) in our society is to be stressed out, anxious, depressed, addicted, living beyond our means and relatively apathetic to the experience of others.

It’s not that I’m a cynic – far from it. I simply see that what most of us are pursuing – some perpetuated version of the American Dream…it isn’t real. On some level we all know this yet we do what we believe we’re supposed to do instead of following our heart’s longing.

I favor being genuine above all else. It’s been my experience that those of us who have been most scarred by life tend to be the most real and yet so many of us are wishing we could be like everyone else because they seem happy.

We continue to make an invalid comparison between our insides and everyone else’s outsides. We only know how they appear to be, not how they are.  .

Perhaps even in this day and age Thoreau is still right in his assertion that “Most (people) lead lives of quiet desperation.” I see no value in being quiet. I want to talk about desperation and how we rise above it. I want to explore what can be and never settle for what less.

It’s neither normal to be passionate nor to live fully. The people I know who are the most happy, joyous and free are anything but normal. We are artists of every kind. We are dreamers who ask “What if…” We are advocates and humanitarians.  We are people who not only create but who live creatively.

The key to transformation is a shift in one’s perception. When we look below the surface we see that there’s very little substance in the pursuits of “normal” people. Turning away from socially defined notions of success affords us the opportunity to seek fulfillment and joy in not only in what we wish to do but moreover in who we most want to be.

My friend Ardis would often say, “Happiness is a choice.” I never once heard her explain this. I took it to mean that we have a choice of whether or not we will be aware and grateful for what we have. We have a choice regarding our attitude and where we place our time and energies.

“My personal motto has always been: Joy in spite of everything. Not just [mindless] joy, but joy in spite of everything. Recognizing the inequities and the suffering and the corruption and all that but refusing to let it rain on my parade. And I advocate this to other people.” – Tom Robbins

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life.